David Burling’s Back to the Floor Experience
David Burling, Managing Director for Thomson and First Choice, rolled up his sleeves on Saturday 21st January to help out at one of our retail shops and go ‘Back to the Floor’.
“January is always one of our busiest times of year as people’s thoughts turn away from the misery of January to holidays and sunshine. Traditionally it’s one of our busiest sales periods as all the tour operators and airlines launch sales to encourage customers to book their holidays early.
Nowhere is busier then in our network of over 850 retail shops, which see thousands of customers passing through the doors requesting brochures, quizzing our agents on where the best hotels are and booking holidays to make sure they get a coveted free child place!
On Saturday 21st January I, and many of the board directors here at Thomson and First Choice, went back to the floor to help out our retail staff on what is traditionally one of our biggest weekends of the year.
I joined the team at the Thomson Uxbridge shop, not just because it’s near to where I live, but also because it’s where Billy Leighton, our travel advisor of the year for 2011 works. I wanted to see what great looked like and pick up top tips from one of our best agents.
Our retail network has had a strong January overall, and I was pleased to see that despite the current economic climate and the depressing news stories we are affronted with by the media , customers were very upbeat. If anything it seemed that their holiday is more important than ever, and people are looking to sacrifice other luxuries and treats to save for it.
I was really impressed by the customer service offered at the shop and our agents’ knowledge of destinations and hotels. They did not just have a good understanding of Thomson and First Choice hotels, but also knowledge on cruises, multi-centres and more complex itineraries, to really assist customers in booking the right holiday for them. In particular. people were asking about our exclusive hotel concepts Sensatori and Holiday Villages, and those that had visited one of them were keen to try out another one. This was wonderful to hear as we pour a lot of resources into getting these hotels right – from ensuring that we have a great hotel to start with, to training a team of entertainers, child care reps and holiday advisors and then marketing and promoting the hotels.
Unsurprisingly a lot of our customers were looking for a good deal, and the team used all of their resources to try and find the right holiday for them. Knowing where the best offers are is vital to closing the sale. In head office we have a large team of people working on our pricing and deciding how much all the holidays should cost. It was fascinating for me to see how these decisions the commercial team make, are trickled down to the store. The staff knew all the offers we released on Friday, and in some cases had also worked out where there were free child places on peak dates so they could quickly and easily give the offers to their customers. This greatly impressed me, and more importantly our customers.
I spent a lot of the day making tea for customers and the team and chatting to them whilst they were waiting to be seen to by our agents. In terms of lessons learnt I saw how important it was for the agents to have excellent product knowledge as customers ask so many different questions. I think the Uxbridge shop is really well run, and in terms of improvements the only things I can think of are to provide more things for kids to do whilst their mums and dads are booking their holidays. And also buy a bigger kettle so the January Saturday assistant (me) can make the tea quicker when the shop is full!
Amanda Hawley the Retail Manager of the Uxbridge Branch said: “We really loved having David with us on the Saturday and he was a fantastic asset to the team making tea and keeping the customers chatting whilst they were waiting to see us. I was very impressed by his product knowledge and the level of detail he knew about the hotels we go to and sell. I hope David can pop by another time, when we are not quite so busy!”